Iran or its proxies planning ‘sneak attack,’ Trump says, warning of ‘heavy price’

By JOHN WAGNER AND LOUISA LOVELUCK | The Washington Post | Published: April 1, 2020

President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday, without citing specific evidence, that Iran or an Iran-backed militia is planning a “sneak attack” on U.S. troops or assets in Iraq and warned that Iran would “pay a very heavy price” if it were carried out.

The saber rattling from Trump comes as Iran-backed militias are becoming more audacious in attacking U.S. personnel in Iraq, with rocket strikes against military bases occurring more frequently and, for the first time, in broad daylight.

U.S. officials say they are receiving near-daily reports of “imminent” attacks planned against U.S.-linked military or diplomatic facilities.

“Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq,” Trump said in his tweet, without providing elaboration. “If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!”

The tensions come amid a coronavirus pandemic that has occupied Trump increasingly and has taken a particularly hard toll on Iran at a time when the U.S. is expanding sanctions against the country.

It remains unclear how much control Iran maintains over its various proxy groups.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker told reporters last month that the U.S. would “take what steps that we see necessary” to retaliate for militia violence. But the administration remains divided over how, or even when, to strike back.

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